Homicides on the rise in Prince George’s Co., but overall crime is dropping

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — The numbers coming out of the Prince George’s County Police Department are impressive: There’s a 17 percent drop in overall crime so far this year.

But some members of the County Council’s public safety committee are worried because the homicide rate is on the rise this year. There have been 60 killings so far this year compared to 54 for all of 2014.

Councilman Obie Patterson referred to the increase as a “spike” in crime. “I think we’re headed in the wrong direction,” Patterson told Police Chief Mark Magaw.

Magaw took issue with Patterson’s terminology, referring to the increase in homicides as an “uptick,” not a “spike.”

“Right now, we’re up in our shootings and we’re up in our homicides. Every other category of crime is down,” he told the committee.

Councilwoman Andrea Harrison took note of Magaw’s statement that the 17 percent drop in overall crime puts Prince George’s County in the position of having a crime rate lower than that of it’s neighbors. Harrison had Magaw repeat that several times to confirm it.

“Our story is that Prince George’s County has among the lowest crime rate in the national capital region. See, I want that to be known,” she said.

But Councilwoman Mary Lehman echoed Patterson’s concerns. While she welcomed the news that overall crime was down, she told Magaw: “The fact is, if you are a victim of violence, or a family member is a victim of violence, it does not matter how much the crime rate has gone down.”

Magaw responded to Lehman’s concerns, saying “You’re exactly right, every crime is not about numbers, it’s about people.”

But after the meeting concluded, Magaw returned to his contention that the trend in homicides is best characterized as an “uptick” and not a “spike.” He explained that when he was new to his job in 2011 “we had 12 homicides in 13 days. That was a spike.”

Still, Magaw said he’s committed to reversing the current trend.

Here is a look at homicide tallies during the past five years:

2010: 90
2011: 95
2012: 64
2013: 56
2014: 54
2015 YTD: 60

2014: Overall crime was down 9 percent
2015: YTD Overall crime down 17.5 percent

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